RADICAN’S NJPW “NJPW CUP 2018: NIGHT 8” BIG MATCH SPOTLIGHT
ZACK SABRE JR. vs. SANADA – 2018 NJPW CUP SEMI-FINAL ROUND MATCH
MARCH 18, 2018
BY SEAN RADICAN, TORCH COLUMNIST
AIRED LIVE ON NJPW WORLD
NJPW CUP 2018 SEMI-FINAL ROUND BIG MATCH SPOTLIGHT: ZACK SABRE JR. vs. SANADA
Commentators: Kevin Kelly and Bad Luck Fale. There was also a translator, but I didn’t catch his name.
The story of the match was that SANADA seemed to be able to hang with Sabre for about the first 20 minutes of the match. Sure, Sabre would get his submissions in, as he began working over SANADA’S arms, but SANADA seemed to have an answer. At one point, both men went back and forth switching in and out of the stranglehold position. SANADA went for the paradise lock and his signature double leapfrog dropkick during the first half of the match, but Sabre countered them.
One of the big things SANADA kept going for in the match was TKO and Sabre blocked it the first two times. Sabre had a triangle late in the match, but SANADA deadlifted him into the TKO and the fans applauded. SANADA also went for the skull end and got it, but he couldn’t apply it fully on the mat. He had it at one point and he spun Sabre around, but Sabre escaped, as SANADA could not get him down to the mat. The only moves SANADA did manage to get were the paradise lock and the double leapfrog dropkick, which seemed to frustrate Sabre given his post-match comments later on.
SANADA went for a moonsault at one point during the match and Sabre got out of the way. SANADA landed on his feet, but Sabre took him down and hit a PK. SANADA positioned Sabre for the moonsault late in the match, but Sabre got his knees up and locked up one of SANADA’s arms. SANADA reached towards the ropes and Sabre grabbed his arm and locked him in a double chicken wing. SANADA tried to get his foot on the ropes and SANADA tied it up in a single leg crab while holding the double chicken wing. He hit several headbutts to SANADA’s ribs and he verbally submitted.
Winner: Zack Sabre Jr.
Star rating: (****¼)
Taka Michinoku cut a promo and said Hiroshi Tanahashi would just tap out in the final. They cut backstage and Sabre cut a promo. He said that SANADA was cheeky to get him into the paradise lock. He said that Tanahashi was held together by hairspray and athletic tape. He promised to win the tournament by making Tanahashi tap out. Sabre concluded by saying he would make Okada submit after he beat Tanahashi.
Radican’s Analysis: The 2018 version of the NJPW Cup has seen Sabre get an incredible push. He’s dominated Naito, Ibushi, and now SANADA on the mat. SANADA was game for a lot of back and forth action, but Sabre overwhelmed him with his counters and joint manipulation.
The best part of the tournament has been watching Sabre show a new side of himself as a nasty submission machine. Kevin Kelly on commentary did a great job during the match of putting over how Sabre doesn’t have just one hold to finish an opponent, but he has several.
Sabre has been a treat to watch. A great touch to his act has been Taka Michinoku’s pre and post-match speeches urging Sabre’s current and future opponents to just tap out. Tanahashi’s redemption story has been fantastic, but Sabre has bloomed into a full blown bad ass submission specialist during this tournament.